Working in a rental company out of old warehouses located in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg is just part of life for the Gearhouse Group. Over the years the area has become increasingly derelict and for a group of creatives, it can be a little disheartening to see the dirty streets and neglect of the area that the Group has inhabited for at least the past two decades.
Of late, however, there has been a growing focus on the potential of the area for inner city development, resulting in oases like the iconic Nando’s Central Kitchen Head office which embodies the brand’s support of the arts and the launch of 30,000 sqm of Victoria Yards, both in Victoria Street, Lorentzville. Victoria Yards is “a uniquely integrated urban complex that is as much about social development as it is commercial enterprise” where urban farming, artisanal crafts outlets and creative skills development co-exist in a unique eco-system aimed at benefitting the community.
A few streets over, the Skills Village Community Campus 2030, a secondary co-operative uses an event framework as a vehicle for local economic development and enterprise development activities.
Even the lush green space at Panache Signage in Frere Road is an example of what can be done by committed businesses in the area to create inspirational spaces.
Located in the reclaimed corner café on 1st street is Gearhouse’s Kentse Mpahlwa Academy where an annual free-of-charge technical services learnership educates and empowers youth from under-served communities. The Academy has fed just over 450 graduates back into the event industry since 2006.
The groundswell of upliftment initiatives has been slowly but inexorably regenerating the area. There are even plans afoot to clean up the Juksei from the source and create a community green space where it flows through the dusty suburbs from Bertrams across Lorentzville, Judiths Paarl and Bezuidenhout Valley. The Makers Valley Collective, a non-profit organization is also working hard to change the negative perceptions around the area by working with creative “makers” in the valley and key business stakeholders to make the area “a better place to live, work and experience collective well-being for all.”
The latest move at Gearhouse has been to launch a street cleaning initiative around the area using the services of Clean Village, a BEE level 1 NPO that works off donations and employs locals to carry out the work. Clean Village started out when three like-minded volunteers got together to clean up the streets, removing litter, weeds and illegally posted signage around Kensington.
Gearhouse Group was introduced to the initiative through Splitbeam, the theatre rental company for the Group and have embraced the opportunity to support the initiative and bring it to Bezuidenhout Valley as well. The programme kicked off in Lang Street, Bezuidenhout Valley this week with a pilot programme during which the streets around the Gearhouse warehouses and staff housing are being cleaned and restored resulting in at least 30 bags of litter being readied for collection by Pickit Up in the first few days.
“It is a small step” says Splitbeam’s Alistair Kilbee, “but if we just sit around bemoaning the fact that the area is looking tatty, who do we have to blame but ourselves? So, we believe that this is a step in the right direction and we hope that other companies in the area who see the initiative will also want to get on board. People in the community also have an opportunity to work with the NPO and hopefully also benefit the area with a potential for job creation.”
Story Robyn D’Alessandro
Photo Nicola LawfordBack
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